Wagner: Der fliegende Holländer

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Wagner
LABELS: Opus Arte
WORKS: Der fliegende Holländer
PERFORMER: Robert Lloyd, Catherine Naglestad, Marco Jentzsch, Marina Prudenskaja, Oliver Ringelhahn, Juha Uusitalo; Chorus of the Netherlands opera; NetherlandsPhil/Hartmut Haenchen; dir. Martin Kusˆej
CATALOGUE NO: OA 1049D (NTSC system; dts 5.1; 16:9 picture format)

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Whether or not you’d enjoy this Dutch Dutchman depends less on its musical qualities than the production. The unhelpful notes still describe accursed seamen and village girls, but enfant terrible Martin Kusˆej has decided that the Dutchman is actually the unsupernatural boss of some asylum-seeking hoodies, who board a cruise liner to confront its bourgeois passengers. All that’s potentially interesting in this concept is undermined by Kusˆej’s weakness for empty gesture.

The Steersman sings his song spotlit in a spangled jacket, like a talent-show contestant. Act II’s ladies lounge around the pool – cue the odd topless extra – with ‘nurse’ Mary, a statuesque glamourpuss, yet Senta still sits at a spinning wheel. During her ballad hoodies distractingly smear the windows with blood or, shot down by Erik, expire messily in the pool. Act III confronts not the two crews, but disco-goers mocking the passive hoodies outside. The Dutchman and Senta achieve no final redemption; psychotic Erik just pots them both. Some extreme productions provide exciting Personenregie (character direction) but Kusˆej’s is conventional, matched by Hartmut Haenchen’s briskly routine conducting of the 1860 score.

All this leaves a strong cast little scope. Juha Uusitalo is a charismatic Dutchman vocally, if more demonic than romantic, but he’s allowed to strike few sparks with soprano Catherine Naglestad’s attractive Senta, slightly light-voiced but admirably clear. Tenor Marco Jentzsch is a decently lyrical Erik, mezzo-soprano Marina Prudenskaja and tenor Oliver Ringelhahn are adequate as Mary and the Steersman. Bass Robert Lloyd, a masterly Wagnerian since the early 1970s, is now a sadly dry, unresonant Daland.

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This looks fine in Blu-ray, but for me, at least, Wolfgang Sawallisch’s 1975 cinema film offers a fuller experience of The Flying Dutchman, and Harry Kupfer’s 1980s Bayreuth staging a more striking modern reinterpretation. Michael Scott Rohan